Business 28.12.2016 06:18 am

‘Hypocritical’ Eskom ‘forcing’ nuclear power on SA

AFP/File / Sebastien Bozon<br />The Fessenheim nuclear power plant has been running since 1977

AFP/File / Sebastien Bozon
The Fessenheim nuclear power plant has been running since 1977

The power utility’s nuclear plans are confusing unless you consider them ‘engineered’ to benefit Russia, according to an expert.

While Europe spends mega euros on technology to generate “green energy”, here government seems bent on spending mega rands on nuclear technology, and taxpayers’ monies on court cases to defend it.

South Africa’s energy guru, Chris Yelland – writing for biznews.com – slammed Eskom’s attempts to “force” nuclear power on South Africa, adding to the voice of public opinion that Eskom has not played open cards and appears to want nuclear power for the wrong reasons.

“Eskom’s preferred scenario artificially constrains cheaper solar PV and wind capacity, uses unrealistically high and inconsistent technology prices for solar PV and wind and an unrealistically low and inconsistent LCOE for nuclear power, and applies more stringent carbon emission constraints, thus forcing the IRP model to fit 25GW of nuclear power into the mix,” Yelland wrote.

“Yet at the same time, Eskom continues to proceed with its massive coal-fired new-build programme, and plans to extend the life of its environmentally noncompliant coal fleet.

“The hypocrisy of pushing for stringent carbon emission constraints to facilitate its nuclear ambitions on the one hand, while maintaining high-emission coal power and constraining low-emission renewable energy, seems lost on Eskom,” noted Yelland.

The problem with nuclear power is not so much that it’s nuclear, but the way government has gone about it, says the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa), expressing its “shock and outrage at government’s extreme cynicism and profligacy in its approach to nuclear-related court proceedings in Cape Town”.

“On December 13, 2016, the Western Cape High Court postponed the challenge by environmental justice groups Earthlife Africa Johannesburg (ELA-JHB) and the Southern African Faith Communities Environment Institute (SAFCEI), to the legality of the government’s nuclear procurement deal.

“In doing so, the court ordered the minister of energy to pay the applicants’ costs on a punitive scale, including the costs of four counsel,” said Earthlife in a statement.

“The importance of the challenge is clear: it relates to the largest procurement deal the country has seen since the advent of democracy, a deal which is feared to have been engineered for Russia to be the preferred bidder.”

According to Outa, the case was estimated by Outa to be in the range of R5 million-R10 million.

Undeterred, Eskom last week issued a “no-obligation request for information (RFI) for the South African nuclear new build programme”.

“The RFI seeks to gather information including experience related to recent nuclear project capacities and costs, proposed financing solutions and localisation opportunities,” the RFI reads.

“Also the information gathered through the RFI process will be used to supplement Eskom’s response to the current Draft IRP 2016.”

According to Eskom’s acting CEO, Matshela Koko, Eskom is under financial pressure by independent power producers, and also that wind and sun power could not economically replace sources such as gas and nuclear for a reliable electricity supply.

“However, his comments on the financial burden that renewables place on Eskom do not contain any comparative cost analysis,” said the Helen Suzman Foundation’s Anton van Dalsen.

“It is not sufficient to complain about renewable costs and, at the same time, not to include a comparison of any kind with the cost of nonrenewable supplies such as nuclear.”

– amandaw@citizen.co.za

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